President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs are already claiming their first American victims. But it isn’t Chinese duties causing the damage ― at least, not yet. It’s Canadian ones.
Tariffs imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department on Canadian newsprint in January and increased in March have caused the price of the paper product to skyrocket as much as 32 percent, hitting an already cash-strapped newspaper industry.
As a result, the Tampa Bay Times, which has won 12 Pulitzer Prizes, is being forced to lay off about 50 staffers, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported Wednesday.
The paper’s CEO, Paul Tash, offered a frank assessment of the duties’ effect in a letter to readers published late last month, noting the Times uses 17,000 tons of newsprint a year. Thanks to Trump’s tariffs, the cost per ton of newsprint is now $800 instead of $600, upping the paper’s yearly bill by $3.4 million.
“Payroll is the only expense that is bigger than newsprint,” Tash wrote. “To help offset the extra expense of paper, publishers will eliminate jobs. Make no mistake: These tariffs will cause layoffs across American newspapers, including this one.”
Make no mistake: These tariffs will cause layoffs across American newspapers, including this one.
Oddly, according to the News Media Alliance, an industry group, the higher duties weren’t even championed by most American producers of newsprint, most of whom have transitioned to other paper products as demand has plummeted.
Instead, Trump’s Commerce Department imposed the tariff at the urging of just one newsprint mill in the Pacific Northwest: North Pacific Paper, or Norpac. The company is owned by a New York hedge fund, One Rock Capital.
Norpac’s mill in Washington employs about 260 people. An estimated 600,000 American jobs are in the newspaper publishing and commercial printing industry, CNN estimates.
The company didn’t immediately respond to questions from HuffPost, including if there’s anything the company would like to tell staffers at the Tampa Bay Times who are losing their jobs because of its successful lobbying.
“What we’re seeing with the newsprint tariffs is not a government acting to try to better the economy for its citizens,” notes News Media Alliance President David Chavern. “Instead, it is ‘political arbitrage’ by one private investment group — where they are effectively looking to use the U.S. government to tax local and community newspapers across the United States in order to bolster their own bottom line.”